THE CHINESE MIND Ql
last a few days or weeks or it may extend to a generation, until she has borne him children, who, after their success in examinations, come back for their mother and then find that the gorgeous mansion has disappeared and in its place is an old, old grave, with a hole underground, where lies a dead old mother fox. For she is only one of those fox spirits the Chinese delight to tell about. Sometimes she leaves behind a note saying that she was sorry to leave them, but that she was a fox and only wanted to enjoy human life, and now, since she has seen them prosper, she is grateful and hopes they will forgive her. This is typical of the Chinese imagination which, without soaring aloft to God-like heights, invests the creatures of its mind with human passions and human sorrows. It has the pagan virtue of accepting the imaginary with the real, and has no desire for a world perfectly rationalized and completely explained, This quality of the Chinese imagination is so little known that I will give here a translation of a tale, The Tale of CKienniang) handed down from the T'ang Dynasty. I don't know whether the story is true or not, but the affair happened in the years around A.D. 690, during the reign of the Empress Wuhou. Our novels, dramas and scholars' works are full of this type of story, in which the supernatural is made believable because it is made human.
Ch'ienniang was the daughter of Mr, Chang Yi, an official in Hunan. She had a cousin by the name of Wang Chou, who was a brilliant and handsome young man. They had grown up together from childhood, and as her father was very fond of the young boy, he had said that he would take Wang Chou as his son-in-law. This promise they had both heard, and as she was the only child, and they were very close together, their love grew from day to day. They were now grown-up young people, and even had intimate relationships with each other. Unfortunately, her father was the only man who failed to perceive this. One day a young official came to beg for her hand from her father, and, ignoring or forgetting his early promise, he consented. Ch'ien-niang, torn between love and filial piety, was ready to die with grief, while the young man was so disgusted that he